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Cool

Plovdiv is cool - beautiful architecture and neat little ruins in the old town, lively pedestrian zone always buzzing with people, museums and art galleries for those that are so inclined, nicely-located cafes all over the place ... but ... it's kind of missing something. Many Bulgarians say that it's the best that their country has to offer, but while I like it, I'm not digging it enough to spend all of today here, after having seen the highlights yesterday.

Don't get me wrong - there were a few sites I wanted to check out today, such as the Historical Museum chronicling the 1876 uprising against the Ottomans, the Museum of History that details the 1885 unification of Bulgaria, and the Wine from Bulgaria Museum & Oenology collection. The latter wasn't intriguing so much for the information it can provide, but for the tastings of some more fabulous Bulgarian wine - 10 leva for three, or 40 leva for ten, if you can handle it!

But ... having seen an amazing photo of the nearby Bachkovo Monastery in the guidebook and been advised by Nickolina of the Hotel Panorama that it was a must-see, that was the plan for today. Getting there wasn't an easy task, even though maps indicated the bus station being only a short distance from the train station - just walk along the main road away from the station and hang a right, correct? Wrong! I kept walking, and walking, and walking ... until I finally stopped and asked a local, who incorrectly told me to cross the street and go a bit farther. Finally backtracking to the train station, I discovered that access to this particular bus station (one of two in Plovdiv's centre) was only possible through an underground passageway. If only the map indicated this ...

After missing a couple of buses (luckily there are many to Bachkovo), finally made my way on to one and was off. Ended up sitting next to this guy from California, three months into living in a little town in the Rodopi mountains for a two-year stint with the Peace Corps. Very interesting guy to chat with - his first two choices were the South Pacific and Mozambique, the latter being mostly because learning Portuguese might prove to be valuable down the road. Eastern Europe wasn't even on his radar and he only accepted because of the long and difficult application process - turning down Bulgaria would have been a lot of wasted effort, as there would be no other option. So of course, the last place he wanted to go ends up being a place he absolutely loves.

Part of the deal with the Peace Corps is that he gets paid for his work exactly as a local would, which isn't a whole lot in Bulgaria, especially in a small village up in the mountains. Something going for him is that the town he teaches for is also paying for his housing and the Peace Corps are paying for his utilities, so in the end he's pocketing significantly more than the average Bulgarian English teacher. There's also the opportunity to do a bit of travel in Bulgaria for other assignments, from where he is returning - he was able to squeeze in some time along the northern Black Sea Coast in Varna and Shabla. Because he was heading up there for the Peace Corps, they covered his transportation costs to and from, but he was responsible for any costs incurred above and beyond his mandate. It's unfortunate that Bachkovo is only an hour from Plovdiv, as it really would have been nice to continue the conversation and further pick his brain on the inner workings of the Peace Corps.

Finally - Bachkovo! Nice little place, neat monastery ... not much time is required to actually see it, and it's actually a fair bit of effort to get to and from, despite it being only about 30 km away. It's also apparently quite the life-endangering experience, as the Peace Corps volunteer told me that car and bus accidents are very common up in the Rodopi mountains - luckily for me, Bachkovo isn't that far up! Probably the best part about Bachkovo is that it's quite a bit cooler than Plovdiv, especially after a one-hour ride in the sauna mini-bus, which only had two windows that could open, located at the very front. Apparently folks from smaller towns have an aversion to opening windows, thinking that it makes you sick. Sounds very Chinese, if you ask me ...

The ride back to Plovdiv was great not only because it was board a bus that actually had windows and used them, but because the scenery was stunning, passing through beautifully-green forest and along some streams. Reminded me of a bus ride through Bosnia and Herzegovina last year ... I'd say that ride was nicer, but am still quite lucky that today's was a close second.

Plovdiv's Main Pedestrian Street ...

Plovdiv's Main Pedestrian Street ...


Perfect Start to a Day in Plovdiv ...

Perfect Start to a Day in Plovdiv ...


Lunch In Bachkovo, Attempt #3 ...

Lunch In Bachkovo, Attempt #3 ...


Troubles Ordering Off a Cyrillic Menu ...

Troubles Ordering Off a Cyrillic Menu ...


Skipped the Kebapche ...

Skipped the Kebapche ...


Heading to the Monastery

Heading to the Monastery


The Obligatory Bulgarian Mineral Spring

The Obligatory Bulgarian Mineral Spring


The Courtyard

The Courtyard


Bachkovo Monastery

Bachkovo Monastery


Beautifully-located Bachkovo, Up in the Mountains

Beautifully-located Bachkovo, Up in the Mountains


Monastery Garden, Perfect For Chilling

Monastery Garden, Perfect For Chilling


Nap Time ...

Nap Time ...


Wake-up Snack ...

Wake-up Snack ...


Dinner Back In Plovdiv ...

Dinner Back In Plovdiv ...


Traditional Meal ...

Traditional Meal ...


Cheese-Stuffed Pork Patty ...

Cheese-Stuffed Pork Patty ...


Soviet Propaganda Art

Soviet Propaganda Art


Soviet Propaganda Statue

Soviet Propaganda Statue


American Capitalist Propaganda, Courtesy KFC

American Capitalist Propaganda, Courtesy KFC


A Dish Called "Spicy Bulgarian Woman" ...

A Dish Called "Spicy Bulgarian Woman" ...


Happy Shepherd Boy Looks More Like a Creepy Alien

Happy Shepherd Boy Looks More Like a Creepy Alien

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in Bulgaria

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